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San Jacinto III (CG-56)


General Samuel Houston and his outnumbered troops won independence for Texas by decisively defeating a Mexican army led by President Antonio López de Santa Anna at the San Jacinto River, on 21 April 1836.

The first San Jacinto, a screw frigate, served from 1851-1871. The second San Jacinto (CVL-30), a small aircraft carrier, served from 1943-1970.


(CG-56: displacement 9,600; length 567'; beam 55'; draft 33'; speed 30+ knots; complement 363; armament 2 5-inch, 2 Mk 41 Vertical Launch Systems (VLS) for BGM-109 Tomahawks, RIM-66 SM-2MR Standards, and RUM-139 VL-ASROC Antisubmarine Rockets, 8 RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile canister launchers, 2 Mk 15 Close In Weapon System (CIWS), 4 .50 caliber machine guns, and 6 Mk 32 torpedo tubes, aircraft 2 Sikorsky SH-60B Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System (LAMPS) Mk III Seahawks; class Ticonderoga)

The third San Jacinto (CG-56) was laid down on 24 July 1985 at Pascagoula, Miss., by Ingalls Shipbuilding Division, Litton Industries; launched on 14 November 1986; sponsored by Dr. Wendy L. Gramm, wife of Senator William P. Gramm of Texas; and commissioned on 23 January 1988 at Houston, Texas, Capt. H. Ward Clark Jr. in command.

San Jacinto sailed to her first home port of Norfolk, Va. (25-30 January 1988), and commenced a series of post-commissioning weapons and systems trials and training, including FleetEx 1-89 off Puerto Rico (4-20 November 1988), the first time she participated in a multi-ship evolution.

San Jacinto deployed (16 August 1990-28 March 1991) for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. She rendezvoused with the John F. Kennedy (CV-67) Contingency Battle Group while en route, and operated initially as part of the coalition’s Maritime Interdiction Force in the Red Sea, inspecting ships for possible smuggling to the Iraqis. Capt. Paul W. Ecker relieved Capt. Clark as the commanding officer on 12 January 1991. At 0130 on 17 January 1991, nine ships in the Mediterranean, Persian Gulf, and Red Sea fired the first of 122 BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles at preprogrammed Iraqi targets. Those battles marked the first combat launch of the Tomahawks. Meanwhile, aircraft carriers America (CV-66), John F. Kennedy, and Saratoga (CV-60) operating in the Red Sea, Midway and Ranger in the Persian Gulf, and Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) en route to the Gulf, launched 228 combat sorties. San Jacinto joined in the crescendo of bombardment and fired a total of 15 Tomahawks at Iraqi military targets during her 44 days of combat action.

San Jacinto (CG-56) III 1988-
A port view of San Jacinto as she makes speed through a calm sea, c. 2000. (San Jacinto (CG-56) Command History Report 2000, Ships History, Naval History & Heritage Command)

An SH-60B from Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron Light (HSL) 42 Detachment 8, embarked on board San Jacinto, participated in the rescue of 11 Yemenis 60 miles off the coast of Yemen on 30 December 2000. The castaways’ engine lost power and their boat drifted for ten days, but the Seahawk spotted the dhow, people on the vessel’s deck waving their arms wildly. “The passengers appeared physically drained and they had exhausted their supply of food and water,” BM3 Abdulkarim Mohamed, San Jacinto’s Yemen-born interpreter explained. “We used our small boat to provide them with enough food and water to make it back to shore.”

San Jacinto deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom I and on the night of 21 March 2003, she joined 29 other U.S. and British ships and submarines that fired BGM-109 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMS) against Iraqi military targets.

Spanish air defense frigate Álvaro de Bazán (F.101) radioed a distress call concerning a seriously ill crewman who required medical attention, while she sailed through the Red Sea on the evening of 28 September 2005. Theodore Roosevelt dispatched her senior medical officer, who determined that the illness threatened the man’s life and that he required immediate evacuation. The carrier did not have the appropriate specialist embarked, however, and San Jacinto, operating in the strike group’s screen, sent Magnum 446, a Seahawk piloted by Lt. Dean Samaniego of HSL-44 Detachment 8, who flew the patient more than 140 nautical miles to a hospital ashore. While San Jacinto carried out maritime security operations in the Northern Arabian Gulf on 18 November 2005, Commodore Bruce Williams, RN, Commander Combined Task Force 58, broke his flag in the ship.

A 14-foot aluminum fishing boat capsized in Chesapeake Bay on 27 April 2009, drowning one of the two fishermen on board. San Jacinto responded to the distress call, relayed by the Coast Guard, and launched two Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs), one of which towed the derelict fishing boat ashore while the Coast Guard searched for the missing man.

San Jacinto, Capt. John P. Cordle in command, with Proud Warrior 433, her embarked SH-60B Seahawk of HSL-42, and a Coast Guard Law Enforcement detachment, encountered Al Jawat, a dhow that acted suspiciously, while the cruiser patrolled the Arabian Sea 68 miles southeast of Ras Fartak, Yemen, on 26 May 2010. San Jacinto’s boarding team found one man hiding under a blanket and a stash of four AK-47 assault rifles and four rocket-propelled grenades. The dhow’s captain explained that pirates had seized Al Jawat the previous day, and identified eight of his 13 mariners as pirates, attempting to disguise themselves as the boat’s crewmen. The boarders apprehended the culprits and transferred them to the Yemeni Navy.

On 31 May and 1 June, the cruiser prevented nine more pirates in a skiff from attacking Maltese-flagged merchant vessel Avenue Beauty about 90 miles north of Somalia. Proud Warrior 433 aircrewman AW2 Casey Halliwell tracked the pirates with radar, and AW2 Corey Whittle fired warning shots across the bow of the skiff, compelling the brigands to stop and surrender. Navy sailors and Coast Guardsmen from San Jacinto boarded and seized the skiff. The pirates threw their weapons and ammunition overboard in a vain attempt to avoid detention, but the boarders discovered the ruse, confiscating one engine and several gallons of fuel and then releasing the pirates, ensuring they could reach shore while limiting their ability to continue their crimes.

While San Jacinto carried out training off the east coast she collided with attack submarine Montpelier (SSN-765), at approximately 1550 on 13 October 2012. Neither vessel reported casualties and both returned to port for repairs by the following day, San Jacinto to Naval Station Mayport, Fla., and Montpelier to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga.

Turkish training ship Cezayirli Gazi Hasan Paşa (A.579) hailed San Jacinto and requested assistance for a Turkish mariner, as the cruiser sailed through the Mediterranean shortly before 2300 on 3 August 2013. San Jacinto came about and made for the area, while aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) coordinated the rescue, her senior medical officer, via radio, providing guidance on how to stabilize the patient. The following morning, a RHIB from San Jacinto transported the man from the Turkish ship to the cruiser, which then launched a Seahawk that flew him to U.S. Naval Hospital Sigonella, Sicily, for additional medical treatment.

Detailed history under construction.

Mark L. Evans

21 August 2014

Published: Tue Jan 30 10:00:41 EST 2024